YRUU A Five-Year Review of Programs for Youth 1989 - Findings and Leadership

YRUU Five Year Review

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YRUU 5 Year Review - III - Findings and Recommendations

A. Adult and youth leadership Findings
Our most consistent finding from all sources is that our overall youth programs are inadequately supported by adult leaders. YRUU was conceived in a period of growing separation and alienation between youth and adults. It was hoped that Common Ground would lead to more active adult involvement in programs and leadership. While the formal structure now includes more adults, and youth-adult relations have improved. we still have a shortage of adults (and especially of men) working with youth.

Support and training for adults who work with youth is seriously lacking, and adults are reluctant to work with youth when there is little training or support for them. Most of the adults and many of the youth who responded to our questionnaire expressed a desire for more leadership training for adults. Youth involved in the Youth Council and Youth Staff were especially apt to see this need. We see a pattern of neglect of youth ministry among our ministers, especially parish ministers. This is communicated to lay leaders, and contrasts sharply with ministerial attitudes in denominations whose youth programs are more successful. Youth ministry is not taught in most of our theological schools, is rarely discussed in UU Ministers Association (UUMA) chapter meetings. and is not practiced personally by many ministers. With a few outstanding exceptions, parish ministers are absent from district youth-adult councils (YACS) and the Youth Council. Nor do the UUA field staff often provide leadership to district youth programs. In this respect, little seems to have changed since 1977, when the Special Committee on Youth Programs reported "little evidence of ministerial involvement in youth programming and almost no evidence of ministerial involvement in youth programming beyond the local level." (Footnote 6)

Youth group advisors need not only the knowledgeable support of the Director of Religious Education (DREs) or ministers who not only have a vision of good youth programming but good training as well, to help them gain an overview of their role and the skills for living it.

We see an acceptance of a wider variety of styles of adult leadership with youth. High-school RE classes based on a structured curriculum are now widespread. "Youth-group" type programs use a variety of leadership styles. We affirm both this variety and the continuing need to train adults who can support and work as equals with youth leaders. Adults can and should learn how to vary their leadership styles according to the needs of the group.

District youth programs and leadership are generally weak. Although there are some exceptions due to the personal skills and commitment of individuals, only regular opportunities for training of youth and adult leaders can ensure that program quality will be consistent. For young leaders especially, the rapid turnover means that trainings must occur frequently to succeed. Of crucial importance also is training for those who work directly with youth as youth group advisors and teachers.

The UUA has a long-established training program for leaders of About Your Sexuality (AYS) that works through a male-female training team in each district. As new programs such as World Religions have been published, initial training has been provided. Some districts may need to recruit new leaders to maintain training offerings for crucial programs such as AYS and Life Issues for Teenagers (LIFT).

Clearly a call to re-envision youth ministry needs to be heard at many levels. Training programs for ministers and religious educators need to be designed and conducted to provide these pivotal persons with a vision of good youth ministry as well as with the resources for conducting it.

We have some examples of effective leadership training before us. Both the Common Ground process and the Continental Youth Leadership Conference (1 986) in Dallas proved that successful leadership training results in adult involvement, youth empowerment, and improved youth programs. Districts, local congregations, and UU camps and conferences have small-scale leadership training programs in place or under consideration. This is not enough, however.

In 1987 the UUA Department of Religious Education requested funds for a continent wide program of conferences on leadership development for both adults and youth as leaders of youth programs. On alternate years the conferences would be a) for youth and adults together, and b) for adult advisors alone. Two representatives from each district would be invited, and would then return to their districts to provide leadership training. This request received first-round approval but was ultimately turned down by the Board of Trustees. We have reviewed this proposal and believe it would go a long way toward strengthening our UU ministry to youth.

At Common Ground, the UUA and YRUU agreed to a much closer youth-adult collaboration than had occurred in LRY. YRUU gave up some autonomy in this agreement; the UUA agreed in turn to work with youth in building the new program. Our most important finding is that the UUA has not lived up to its end of the bargain struck at Common Ground. It is not reasonable to expect good youth adult relations if adults will not work seriously with youth, nor to expect adults to work effectively with youth if the UUA docs not support and train them.


1. We recommend full funding of the leadership development conferences for youth and youth advisors proposed by the Religious Education Department. This program should be implemented by the spring of 1990.

2. We recommend that the YRUU Youth Council continue to have a leadership-development component at its annual meetings.

3. We recommend that a Youth Ministry component be added to the training of all religious leaders. This would include a "Renaissance" module for directors of religious education, classes in theological schools, training for District Executives. a continuing education program of the UU Ministers Association, and a requirement in the Independent Study Program for ministers of religious education.

4. We recommend that district and continental conferences, including youth programs, provide opportunities for youth advisors to exchange ideas and support each other.

5. We recommend that adult conferences and professional organizations consider the theme of Youth Ministry as a topic.

6. We recommend that districts develop a resource list of experienced youth workers willing to consult with local congregations to assist them with their youth groups and to lead workshops at district and cluster events.

6 Report of the Special Committee on Youth Programs to the UUA Board of Trustees (UUA, November, 1977), P. 8. [BACK]


Translated from the original text document to htm by Lorne Tyndale, YRUU Programmes Specialist September 1993 - August 1994. The document was on lryer.org. I have placed the document on this site as I've been notified that lryer.org appears to be down.

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